After 107 years in Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson could leave
Iconic motorcycle maker could move to another state if it cannot cut labor costs
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Morry Gash / AP After 107 years in Milwaukee, Harley Davidson motorcycles could soon be rumbling away to another state if the company cannot bring down its labor costs.
By DINESH RAMDE
updated 1 hour 36 minutes ago
MILWAUKEE — It's the roar that made Milwaukee famous — the distinctive throaty rumble of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. But that much-loved racket could be rumbling away to another state if the company cannot bring down its labor costs.
Harley-Davidson warned employees in April that it will move its Wisconsin manufacturing operations elsewhere if it cannot cut millions of dollars at the factories that build the bikes known as "Milwaukee Iron."
Harley's corporate headquarters would remain here, but that's small consolation to a community that has already endured repeated blows to its civic identity.
"When you think of Milwaukee you think of beer, brats and Harley-Davidson," said Steve Daily, a researcher at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. "Right or wrong, that's what it is."
But that's been changing. For example, the corporate parent of beer giant Miller parent moved its U.S. headquarters to Chicago in 2008 after joining its domestic operations with Molson Coors Brewing Co. Then there was Schlitz, which billed itself as "the beer that made Milwaukee famous" until financial and labor problems forced it to sell out to a Detroit company in the 1980s.
That leaves Harley-Davidson Inc. as the city's lone signature brand. It's also a magnet for tourists, many of whom want to visit the factories where Harley engines are made.
"We get asked frequently where the plants are," said Paul Upchurch, the president of the VISIT Milwaukee tourism bureau. "A lot of people around the world associate Milwaukee with the home of Harley."
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